A new poetry night for Canterbury, Your Bard!, kicked off on this week. Hosted by Alex Vellis, the evening had an air of playful chaos, the only rules being that each poet had three minutes to perform one poem on the theme of anti-valentines. This isn’t a formal occasion with poetry clicks and official scoreboards: set in the Foundry’s top floor bar, it was easy to feel like a group of friends in a cosy living room, sat together in a tale as old as time: to share words, drinks and, most importantly, to laugh at Alex’s (self-confessed terrible) jokes.
One of the nicest things about Alex’s slams is that they rarely fall into a rut or a defined clique of the same people; these slams will often showcase new poets of all different levels of experience. There’s a really strong, vibrant and encouraging poetry community in Canterbury and this is reflective of the South East in the general, with enthusiastic poets hosting regular open mic nights in Folkestone, Margate, and Ramsgate. Being in a university town, faces come and go, often shining their light on the city for two or three years before moving on to new towns and different slams. It’s a curse and a blessing; we lose people along the way, but there are always new faces, bringing their own patchwork quilt of experiences and influences to the stage.
Louise, a new performer on the scene, travelled from Folkestone to attend the anti-valentine’s slam. Other performers included students, the hosts of CSR radio show Writer’s Bloc, and familiar faces from Wise Words festival and beyond.
An anti-valentine’s theme brought a lot of humour to the evening, but also a lot of sad and painful stories. People recalled their painful breakups, their abusers, and the perils of singledom, including bemoaning terrible first dates and sexual frustration. Hayley Knight even wrote a love poem addressed to coffee, which is one of the most stable relationships of my adult life, so I could strongly relate.
The winner, Seb Marsh, will be headlining the next slam – so come along to the next Your Bard! on the 5th March to hear more from him, as well as words from Alex Vellis and the mystery musical feature act.